Human beings? We’re goldfish: we tend to grow to the size of the fishbowl we’re placed in.
A fishbowl, of course, has its place. It keeps us, in the various stages of our life, safe and secure while we work things out — while we test the waters, so to speak. But we goldfish have a tendency to mistake security for satisfaction, and as a result we sometimes choose a fishbowl — even without knowing it — that we then forget how to leave.
Listen: I’ve got my fishbowl; you’ve got yours. The important thing to remember, however, is not that there’s something inherently wrong with the homey waters of a fishbowl. More, it’s to keep in mind that our fishbowl (stay with me on this metaphor for a minute longer) does not exist in the middle of a desert, into which it would be disaster to leave.
No, we’ve got our homey little fishbowl, but it sits, smack dab, in the middle of an great Ocean — a vast Ocean in which, fishbowl or no, we are totally and in every way already submerged, immersed and surrounded. And all we have to do to enter that Ocean, when the fishbowl becomes confining (as it does!), is to swim up and out.
Are there sharks in the Ocean? Probably, yes, somewhere. But a fishbowl is itself hardly an utterly safe place (most accidents occur in the home!), and the truth is that the Ocean generally, the big bad scary unknown Ocean, is a shockingly provident place.
Obviously, there’s no reason to be stupid: don’t hop off your plane in Mombasa festooned in gold and assume that you won’t meet with some unwelcome attention. Bad things exist, in the fishbowl and outside it. Possibility, however, is the true name of the Ocean, and the crux of Being-In-The-Ocean (a kind of Dasein aquatica, if you will) is the skillful manipulation of that possibility in all its forms.
In order to appreciate this, it’s necessary to engage in a certain flexibility of belief — put all of your normal belief structure aside for the moment (a good exercise in any case!) and try to see the Universe, the physical reality around you, not as determined and mechanistic, nor as chaotic and meaningless, but instead as a great web of probability, a massive quantum computer in which the entire set of possibilities in the universe is calculated and recalculated trillions of time per second responsive to our actions, thoughts and desires.
This is not some kind of “The Secret” bullshit where I’m going to tell you that by wishing for something, it will come true. And it’s not an invitation to think of the exercise as requiring petition to anything larger than yourself, except to the great mechanism of probability that rules and dictates the endless web of quantum response.
See, if you never leave your fishbowl — if you stick to the same roads and ways and places and people as you always do, not only will you not be changing anything outside yourself, but your inner thoughts and feelings and reactions (they count too!) are also going to remain in similar patterns. In this way, by staying in the fishbowl, we doubly determine the unchanging of our world and its possibilities and conditions.
Then again, by stepping off that path, by swimming out into the Ocean and doing something other to what we always do, by thinking and feeling something other to what we always think and feel: that’s taking the engine of probability that exists in the centre of us as sentient and self-aware beings and dropping it into a totally DIFFERENT section of the probability web. And when that happens, the dominoes that we’re used to always falling in the same predictable ways tend to suddenly take on very different patterns. Just watch: These are ways that lead onto ways that lead onto ways that you could NEVER have predicted.
The name of the Ocean, again, is Possibility; and the crux of Being-in-the-Ocean is exactly this subtle magic. Love your fishbowl, and cherish the protection and stability and safety that it brings when you need to rest; but don’t forget that the Ocean is always out there, waiting, and that the walls of the fishbowl are, in fact, mostly in your mind.